Do You Have To Be In San Francisco To Be A Tech Entrepreneur? The VCs Say No.*

With sky-high rents on both housing and commercial office space, do you really have to be in the Bay Area to hit a home run? A number of VCs today at TechCrunch Disrupt said not necessarily.

Dana Settle, who co-founded Greycroft Partners said that 82 percent of the firm’s investments have been outside Silicon Valley, including bets like Maker Studios, a Culver City-based company that was acquired by Disney for up to $1 billion.

Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures gave some qualified advice. “I think it depends. If you are based in Austin, New York or Boston and you’ve already got a network where you have a recruiting advantage, it might make sense to stay there.”

However, she said that the San Francisco Bay Area is better for tapping into other skillsets. “If you need some expertise, the Bay Area is still quantitatively the best.” The panel said that the higher you go in terms of growing a large company, the more the management expertise you’ll need to source from the country’s biggest tech capitals.

Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners added that recruiting is also a huge component of what makes a city attractive to tech.

“If you’re in a global city where people are willing to move — New York counts, LA counts — Austin is on the edge — it has livability stuff that makes it very attractive, but it doesn’t have the same ecosystem for what people do next and that’s something that people care about,” Liew said. “Really that’s the key question. If you can’t attract people that are willing to move to your city, then you have to move your headquarters to somewhere else.”

It’s a key question for founders today as San Francisco has added more than 100,000 employed residents over the past five years, but fewer than 10,000 housing units. That’s pushed rents in the area to north of $3,530 for a 1-bedroom apartment and office rents to around $70 per square foot. All of this makes running a Silicon Valley tech company quite pricey.